Former President Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, have sent $28,000 worth of household goods back to Washington after questions arose over whether the items were intended as personal gifts or donations to the White House.
“We have been informed that it is being shipped back, and the National Park Service is ready to receive it, take possession of it and take custody of it,” Jim McDaniel, the National Park Service’s liaison to the White House, said Wednesday.
“The property is being returned to government custody until such time that the issues can be resolved. It may well turn out that that property is rightly the personal property of the Clintons.”
After they were criticized for taking $190,000 worth of china, flatware, rugs, televisions, sofas and other gifts with them when they left, the Clintons announced last week that they would pay for $86,000 worth of gifts, or nearly half the amount.
Their latest decision to send back $28,000 in gifts brings to $114,000 the value of items the Clintons have either decided to pay for or return.
McDaniel discussed the matter Wednesday with Betty Monkman, the White House curator, and Gary Walters, the chief usher, or executive manager of the White House.
They were reviewing the gifts the Clintons chose to keep after $28,000 worth of items were found on a list of donations the Park Service received for the 1993 White House redecoration project. The Washington Post this week quoted three people who said that they assumed the furnishings they donated for the project would stay in the White House.
“As a result of questions about the status of certain property donated to the White House during the Clinton administration, the National Park Service will accept the return of the property in question and act as a custodian of such property,” according to a statement released by the Park Service, which administers the White House as a unit of the national park system.
A person familiar with the Clintons’ move out of the White House, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would say only: “They’ve been returned.”
While the Clintons’ decision to return these gifts was a way to get out from under this and other criticism surrounding their departure from the White House, the couple provided scant details about the shipment.
Mrs. Clinton’s office referred all questions about the gift return to the former president’s transition office. Transition office workers said the Clintons would make no statement. They referred all questions to the Park Service, which wasn’t exactly sure which gifts were being returned or where they had been kept.
In a statement released Monday, Clinton’s transition office said every item they accepted was identified by the White House gift office as a present to them. They said none of the gifts taken was on a curator’s list of official White House property.
“Gifts did not leave the White House without the approval of the White House usher’s and curator’s offices,” the statement said. “Of course, if the White House now determines that a cataloging error occurred, ... any item in question will be returned.”
Instead of waiting for the issue to be resolved, the Clintons returned the items.
The gifts in question were: A kitchen table and four chairs valued at $3,650 from Lee Ficks of Cincinnati, Ohio; a $1,000 needlepoint rug from David Martinous of Little Rock, Ark.; two sofas, an easy chair and an ottoman worth $19,900 from Steve Mittman of New York; lamps valued at $1,170 from Stuart Shiller of Hialeah, Fla.; and a $2,843 sofa from Brad Noe, a businessman from California.
The gifts were just one of several flaps that followed the Clintons out of the White House:
Lawmakers are questioning Clinton’s desire to rent expensive office space in New York City at government expense. Because of the contention, the former president’s foundation has offered to pay at least $300,000 of an estimated $790,000 annual rent for the office Clinton favors.
Mrs. Clinton, the new senator from New York, has faced questions about the propriety of accepting the gifts in the period between her election and her swearing-in. Senate rules would have limited what she could accept had she been a senator.
Members of both parties also have criticized Clinton for granting scores of eleventh-hour clemency requests, including the pardon of Marc Rich, a fugitive in Switzerland from 51 counts in the United States of tax evasion and fraud.